Cairo, Egypt and night train to Luxor – July 5th

Today is our last day in Cairo. Tonight, we are going to take the night train to Luxor. But today, we had some time to explore. After a morning swim in the pool with a view of the pyramids, we packed our bags, and checked out of the hotel around noon. We Ubered down to Khan El Khalili which is the Bazaar in Egypt. The bazaar is right next to Al-Hussein Mosque which is one of the bigger mosques in Egypt.

Al-Hussein Mosque

Like in Doha, Friday is the holy day, so prayers were being broadcast all over the loudspeakers at the bazaar. People had their prayer mats all lined up outside of the mosque which was interesting to see.

Since we weren’t able to go into the mosque because of ongoing services, we headed over to the bazaar. It was a huge area of winding streets with vendors lined up all along the sides. There were many Egyptian figurines, shisha pipes (hookah), fabrics, and lamps.

Khan El Khalili Bazaar

Our shopping list, however, consisted of sunscreen, sunglasses (mine broke and are currently duct taped together), conditioner, and sandals (my sandals are also about to break). We did find some sunglasses, but the price they gave us was outrageous, so we declined. 

Jay trying on some super-cool sunglasses

We walked through quite a maze of streets looking at the shops. We ended up in the back streets of the bazaar where all the products are made. We saw hookah pipes, pots, and shoes being made. One thing we could not figure out was how they sold their shoes. The displays only had the soles of the shoes, and no one spoke enough English to explain where the tops of the shoes were. 

In the bazaar, we got a lot of shocked and confused looks from the people wondering what two white folks were doing there. As we got further back into the more local street areas, people were very friendly. People would say “hello” in their Arabic accents and ask us what our names were. They would call out to us as we walked along saying “Welcome, welcome to Egypt.” Multiple people stood up from their chairs and offered them to us to sit down and relax. We were definitely somewhat of an attraction at the bazaar. 

Local Egyptian who was very excited to see Americans.

We finally got out of the maze of streets and found a couple stores selling shower items. Conditioner and sunscreen were definitely not common products though. We eventually found a bottle that said “step 2 after shampoo” so we assumed it was conditioner. And we got some sunscreen at a pharmacy-like store. Then we had lunch at a small place we found walking. The waiter did not speak any English, but we were able to order some chicken, meat, and rice dishes. After lunch, the waiter and another person who worked at the restaurant, asked for a picture with us so we obliged.

Next we Ubered to the Giza Zoo. It was a pretty typical zoo with elephants, lions, tigers, giraffes, and seals. One cool thing we did see were hyenas. I didn’t realize how big they were. 

However, it felt like we were one of the attractions at the zoo. A couple of young boys followed Jay and I for awhile and finally worked up the courage to ask for a picture with Jay. I was taking a picture of an elephant, and the next thing I knew, I was surrounded by a group of girls wanting to shake my hand and know what my name was. I told them and shook all of their hands and they were ushered away by their dad. All throughout the zoo, people would shout “hello” and “what’s your name?” which must be some of the common English phrases they knew. As we were leaving a small girl pulled on my arm and her mom asked if I would take a picture with her daughter. I did, and then the mom got a selfie with us too. It was quite the experience. Egypt is giving us the celebrity treatment. 

After the zoo, we got an Uber back to the hotel to pick up our bags and hang out before catching our train to Luxor. We were pretty sure it was this Uber drivers first ride. He didn’t confirm that he picked us up, so his app was still telling him to go to the zoo to pick us up. So basically, we went in a big circle and were headed back to the zoo. Luckily, Jay keeps track of where we’re going on his phone and told the driver he was going the wrong way using google translate on his phone. The driver was basically going at a snail’s pace on the highway in Cairo traffic with cars honking at him left and right. We finally get him to pull over and Jay gives him his phone with the directions. It takes a lot of skill to drive in Cairo and this driver just was not ready to Uber people around yet. Anyway, we finally made it back to the hotel and spent a couple hours by the pool. At around 6 o’clock, we got our bags and took on Uber to the Giza train station to catch our night train to Luxor. 

The guards working there immediately took us under their wing as soon as we walked up to the station. They told us where to sit, offered us coffee, and checked on us multiple times, each of them telling us which platform to be at and and to look for a green train. The train arrived a little after 8 and the guards ushered us into the train. Then we were off to Luxor. 

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